International News - Beijing gets Champion in Carrefour food drive

French colossus Carrefour opened its first Champion supermarket in Beijing, China last week.

The world's second-biggest retailer plans to open 50 more Champion stores in the country over the next four years, according to French media reports.

Carrefour executive director of supermarkets Philippe Pauze said that the market in Beijing was ripe for further growth, because only 65 per cent of the city's residential areas were serviced by local food shops.

'There is a lot of space left for my firm, because there are still no professional food chain retailers operating in Beijing,' he reportedly said.

The initiative is being supported by Beijing Municipal Government, which wants to accelerate the development of commerce in the city. It plans to enable the opening of 500 convenience stores and supermarkets this year.

Champion joined forces with local supermarket chain Shoulian to open the 16,145 sq ft (1,500 sq m) store. Further expansion in the region will be spearheaded by the joint venture, with Carrefour holding a 65 per cent stake.

Champion also has stores in Belgium, Spain, Poland, Greece, Turkey, Argentina and Brazil. In France, it turns over EUR12.2 billion (£8.23 billion).

The Chinese retail sector, which was only liberalised in 1992, is enjoying strong growth. Last year, China became Carrefour's biggest Asian market, with sales up 32 per cent to EUR1.33 billion (£896.9 million).

Tesco is mulling the idea of opening there, and Kingfisher has already set-up shop.